Sexes Differ in Their Immune Reactions to Burnout on the Job and Depression
findings show that work-related burnout can lead to inflammatory
processes, which plays a key role in the initiation and progression of
cardiovascular disease and other inflammatory-linked illness. Now,
researchers find evidence that men and women differ in their
inflammatory reactions to work-related burnout and depression.
a new study from the Journal of Occupational and Health Psychology,
published by the American Psychological Association (APA), women who
experience job burnout and men who experience depression were found to
have increased levels of two inflammation biomarkers fibrinogen and
C-reactive protein (CRP). Both of these biomarkers have been associated
in numerous studies, with an increased risk of future cardiovascular
disease and stroke, over and above the conventional risk factors like
blood lipids and glucose.
In the first
large-scale study showing a physiological difference in how men and
women react to emotional states, researcher Sharon Toker, Ph.D.,
candidate of Tel Aviv University and co-authors examined
micro-inflammation blood markers and levels of burnout, depression and
anxiety in 630 healthy, employed women and 933 healthy, employed men to
determine which emotions are more likely to present more problems for
each sex. Blood levels of CRP and fibrinogen concentrations were used
to measure levels of micro-inflammation. Fibrinogen is a blood-clotting
factor that responds to vascular and tissue injury and CRP is a complex
set of proteins produced when the body is dealing with a major
infection or trauma.
the study is defined as a generalized distress encompassing all life
domains and burnout is defined as a depletion of an individual's
energetic resources at work. Anxiety is defined as a person
experiencing negatively-toned arousal.
The women in
the study who scored higher on burnout scores had a 1.6 fold risk of
having an elevated level of CRP (>3), and elevated levels of
fibrinogen compared with their non-burned out counterparts (after
controlling for their levels of depression and anxiety). Whereas the
men in the study who scored higher on depression scores (controlling
for their levels of burnout and anxiety) had a 3.15 fold risk of having
an elevated level of CRP (>3), and elevated levels of fibrinogen
compared to the non-depressed men.
suggest that the burned-out women and depressed men are at a greater
risk for future inflammation-related diseases, like diabetes, heart
disease and strokes compared with their non-burned out and
non-depressed counterparts. All these linkages were obtained after
taking into account a host of physiological factors well known to be
associated with CRP and fibrinogen levels.
burnout and depression affect men and women differently, the health
consequences end up being the same, said Dr. Toker, who suggests that
gender difference be included when comparing certain emotions and
health risks. "The findings also confirm that emotional states do
indeed affect a person's risk for developing cardiovascular disease,"
said Toker. "This information can be used to help medical and mental
health professionals design more appropriate stress management
interventions for each sex and hopefully prevent long-lasting health
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